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Explaining to family

(21 Posts)
excitedmtb Wed 14-Jan-15 20:04:02

We are having some issues with family not quite understanding where we are coming from with regards to raising our DD. It came to a head before the festive season when everyone stopped talking to us because we planned to have a more low key Christmas and make memories for little one in our own home. They got over it. But the issue is whenever we have to tell DD off, she runs to them for a cuddle and they indulge.
Our DD has issues with eating (not unusual) but we still have to explain why its not ok to let her have a whole chocolate cake and also not ok to undermine a consequence we have given.
Now I have just learnt that DD has been aided in googling whatever she wants and watching it on youtube. This includes a story about a poor little kitten who cant find a mum to look after her and the animal she thinks is her mum doesn't want her. DD was clearly upset by this.

For me, it's obvious that the things above are not ok (unless I am overreacting). But maybe this is not obvious to those who are not adopters.

So I guess my long winded question is this - does anyone have anything (document, reference, story) that I can give to family to help them understand why we have to do things differently?


TendonQueen Wed 14-Jan-15 20:09:57

I'm not an adopter, but I would find it perfectly reasonable as a parent of any variety that you could ask other family members not to undermine your parenting. It seems obvious to me why you wouldn't let a young child eat a whole chocolate cake, contradict something their parents had decided on, or help them Google whatever they wanted. That is good general respect and boundary setting and shouldn't be a special or unusual request you feel you have to plead for. I've seen many parents having exactly these issues on other threads here. It's usually because the family members are just unreasonable.

TendonQueen Wed 14-Jan-15 20:14:31

I will recommend a general book I think is helpful for many people: Anne
Dickson's A Woman In Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You. It seems to me you would benefit from some strategies for asserting that these family members should respect your choices as parents and the way you are raising your daughter.

Dontlaugh Wed 14-Jan-15 20:17:49

I agree with above poster. I am also not an adopter, but hopefully someone will be along who knows about these things.
I did think, reading your post, that a specific story about your DD's background, told to your family, may help them realise why they need to back off. I suppose it's a fine line between preserving her right to privacy and protecting her from their actions, loving as they may intend them to be.
Something like "DD is relearning how to eat normally because x happened her 2 years ago, it had this effect, with this outcome, which as a family we are trying to help her through, by placing boundaries on food etc" (excuse my lack of insight, but I am always moved myself by such stories, it may or may not help).

excitedmtb Wed 14-Jan-15 20:40:22

The above were just some examples (appreciate that whole chocolate cake is not good for ANY child).
I have no problems asserting myself and have already had conversations around why we structure our day and our meals and snack times.
I don't wish to alienate family and would rather have their support. Which is why I was looking for something easy for them to read to aid their understanding.

I don't plan to tell them DD's story. That is her story to tell and I don't feel they need to know this. We had talked, prior to placement, about the issues which arise from neglectful situations so I felt we had covered some of this. But clearly not sad

TendonQueen Wed 14-Jan-15 20:48:38

I guess it's a long journey and you'll have to repeat yourself to them a lot. Hopefully some posters will come along with direct experience of adoption and be able to comment.

iwishkidslikedtomatoes Wed 14-Jan-15 21:14:05

First of all so sorry to hear this. We have had the odd issue, it's like no matter how much you explain it to them, it just goes out the window when they arrive. sad Does your LA (if you went through an LA) offer any courses or sessions for family members? Ours did, we sent our nearest and dearest and while it hasn't solved everything they were soooooooooo much better having had someone else with experience explain it and do some of the activities we did on our courses for themselves. Could you ask your LA?

I have no further advice though sad Sadly we have stopped seeing a couple of family members post adoption and in one case that is due to lack of understanding at what is best for the child with when seeing them etc. It certainly is a process that uncovers who steps up and who disappoints and I was surprised which of those categories some of our friends and family fell into ( I would say mainly surprised by how many stepped up mind you!)

excitedmtb Wed 14-Jan-15 21:22:15

thanks iwish I will check in with LA. If not courses, then they may at least have something we can pass on.
Sorry to hear you have stopped seeing family members. I am sure that is a decision you didn't take lightly. If this were best for our DD then I would of course go down this route. Would just like to try something else first.

Fortunately, we have some really good friends who seem to get it regardless of their experience and who have taken it upon themselves to find out as much as they can.

PelicanBriefs Wed 14-Jan-15 21:23:31

I think people will struggle to understand why everything isn't suddenly "OK" once your child is in your family (in my experience at least), so all their earlier promises to follow your lead and your therapeutic attachment based parenting ... they fly out the window.

With friends (and some family) I've made some tough decisions about just how much effort I'm prepared to put in to get the message through. I'm exhausted, and don't have enough energy to be constantly reminding and teaching. I don't have space for those people just now, other than by phone or email. With close family, I am gentler, but I know most of them probably wouldn't read books about this, so it's going to be a drip-feed and a lot of modelling behaviour. I moderate how often we see people who don't back me up, and I feel really grateful for the ones who do!

If you think people will read things you suggest, then Dan Hughes, Kim Goldin, Kate Cairns are all good bets. Or Sally Donovan (either her memoir, or her recent "Unofficial guide to adoptive parenting"). The Dan Hughes "Building the bonds of love - Awakening love in traumatised children" has some vivid examples of how and why a child simply cannot cope with "treats" or "normal family life" straight after a difficult early life. It's quite an extreme example, but very useful.

Italiangreyhound Thu 15-Jan-15 02:20:46

Sorry you are going through this excitedmtb.

I am mum to a little boy who joined us by adoption and a birth dd.

I am sorry I can't really advise from experience as my family have pretty much done what I asked!

I am very lucky.

Were I in your shoes I would take a leaf from Pelican's book.

I would be less tolerant of this type of behaviour. Your relatives are manipulating you, possibly innocently, and they need to be stopped.

personally for a limited period of time I would pick up family on any times they attempt to interfere in your parenting. I would not be nasty about it but I would try and deal with it there and then when it happens and be very accurate. What you said, what they did, how this has affected DD. Then if it happened again I would pick it up again at the time and by email with a statement like “This is making family occasions difficult for me, because I do need to get dd into a routine, to understand etc etc”

So for example, the cake, if I could get to my ds before he was given the cake or before he started eating it I would remove it and say to the relative, I said no more cake it is bad for his teeth.” Or whatever, then add some compliment to ds “You have such beautiful teeth." Then tell ds he could have something nice to eat later (if you want to) and/or suggest something fun to do now. My ds does like his sweet things and often takes it very personally he cannot have chocolate in the middle of the day and at the end of the day! I do talk about teeth a lot because I do not want to talk about weight or ‘fat’ etc.

If my ds had already started eating it I would possibly take it away, just depends how I felt. That would probably be a very hard call but if you thought for example the cake might make him/her feel sick or ill (possible if he/she had already had cake a few minutes before), I would. If the child started crying I would comfort them and would explain to the person who had taken it upon themselves to give my child cake that the tears were not because 'I' had refused cake but because the other person had given it.

I know that sounds dramatic and you don't want to be the bad guy here, to your child or the relatives but they do need to understand how their under mining you is causing additional stress for your little one and you.

I hope you told them your child was upset by what they allowed her to watch on the Internet. What did they say? It is not too late to tell them by email if you have not. Especially if you dd has mentioned it again since then.

You said I don't wish to alienate family and would rather have their support. Do tell them that if you have not already told them. That you value them but ultimately your child must come first.

Personally, I would speak to the relevant relative by email to explain how unhelpful their behaviour is, and I would throw in how sad you are because you were enjoying seeing them, lovely food, fun day etc etc, such a shame it happened but look on the bright side and remind them they can help you to establish good routines for dd by backing you up!

I know that all sounds harsh but I think you need to spell it out.

Why do you think they will take literature better than words from you? If you do want to give them something to read I would print off these…. (if they say what you want to say) …

I did look a lot and could find not much at all. You could try adoption UK and BAAF.

I agree you do not need to give them any examples of why this is necessary that are specific to your child. You can talk in general terms. If they cannot understand this just limit your time with them. Meet with them in neutral places, park, zoo, soft play etc. That way you can leave early if you need to and you don’t have an issue with throwing them out.

I would also use divide and conquer, speak to them each separately, assuming the best "I know you will want to help me." and "I know you will understand.” Even though they seem not to. Expect the best of them and show that you are disappointed when they behave badly but that things can be better.

Hope for the best but if you don’t get it, limit their time! IMHO

Good luck.

Oh sorry, long! Just thoughts!

bberry Thu 15-Jan-15 13:24:06

I really do sympathise, we had shot issues with mil after saying she understood pre placement she doesn't actually get it at all, or rather nods and then chooses to do exactly as she wants

I mean, how stupid/selfish do you have to be to tell an adopted child you want to steal them and take them home with you!!!

I think the undermining you as parents is probably not adoption related, some people just think they have the right to "spoil" their grandchildren/niece etc... Personally I think it's appalling not to support the parents boundaries and offer a consistent set of expectations across the board

Some people just don't listen so it means they miss out as I limit the situations/time they have with my child, which is a shame....

dimples76 Thu 15-Jan-15 19:56:19


There is a book - Related by Adoption: A handbook for Grandparents and other relatives published by BAAF. I have not read it myself but it has a 4 star review on Amazon. We were also given another booklet during ICP but it's at my Mum's house and I can't remember what it is called. I'll have a look next time I'm there.

My LA runs training for family members which my Mum, sisters, Dad and his wife all attended. It was useful to some extent and in general I have been impressed by family and friends support and respect for my wishes. However, my stepmother seems to have forgotten everything and I'm finding it very hard to discuss anything relating to my LO with her as I think she would rather just pretend that he is my birth child.

I guess as some of the non-adopters have posted over indulgent grandparents/aunts/uncles etc. are very common so I guess some of your family may see it as treating your child as they would any child who joined the family and they may need a little more help in understanding why it has to be different.

I hope things get easier.

Take care

excitedmtb Fri 16-Jan-15 08:34:56

Firstly apologies for not responding sooner. This week has been rather hectic.

Thanks to all for the advice. I have contacted our SW and she is looking to see what they have. I am sure we were given a few pages back at the start of placement but can't locate it. Dimples I will look up that book as that could be very helpful.

I haven't yet spoken to them about the internet content but I WILL as this can't be allowed to happen again. Will be seeing them this weekend again. For a short time.

I realise that their intent is probably not to undermine us. But that is the result so we do need to nip in the bud. They do want to 'spoil' DD as extended family do and to them it must feel like we stop them giving her treats. They just don't seem to understand DD's lack of ability to stop herself. Although she IS getting better at 'feeling full' and realising she has had enough. A positive step we need to build on.

Once again thanks to all for your inputs. Although it's not a good situation, it helps to know that this is not unusual.

Kewcumber Fri 16-Jan-15 12:00:29

to help them understand

I know this is not really helpful but with 9 years experience I would say don't waste your energy.

There are 3 groups of people:

1 - those that get it
2 - those that don't get it but are respectful of your choices as a parent
3 - those that don't get it and think you are being precious and appear to take great glee in doing the opposite just to prove that you don;t know what you're talking about.

You need to stop caring whether they understand, you need to stop believing if that they read something they will realise that you're not being precious and fall into line, you need to stop pussy footing around trying to bring them on board.

In my experience the only thing which works is very straight forward natural consequences (it works pretty well with adopted children often too so it's good practice for you!).

If you do A then B will happen. You can chose to do A but then B will happen and you will be dealing with B.


"If you allow DD to go on youtube then you will only be able to see her at our house with the computer turned off"
"If you allow DD to go on youtube on your phone/tablet at our house then you will not be able to visit"
"If you allow DD to eat a whole chocolate cake then you will only be allowed to see her in the park not at your house"

Etc etc etc

Pointless being all touchy feely about it just lay the law down with the consequences and carry them through.

Whether they like it/you or not, whether they understand or not doesn't matter, you must do whats right for your DD. And you sound well capable of doing this if you have already fallen out over not seeing them too much at Christmas.

Kewcumber Fri 16-Jan-15 12:03:22

BTW not that its any help again but I sympathise with the overeating thing - DS (much younger at placement) ate so much he was sick every day for at least three months - it wasn't easy to let him until he worked out how much he wanted really and also that there would always be more if he needed it. But at least he was gorging on rice cakes and healthy dinners!

At 9 he is healthy and slim and seems to have no residual food issues.

PelicanBriefs Fri 16-Jan-15 15:56:39

Kew, I needed to be reminded of that, so thanks!

And I've read "Related by adoption" and thought it was a bit weak, but have to admit I don't know of other published alternatives.

GirlsWhoWearGlasses Fri 16-Jan-15 16:08:07

Lots of sympathy and fellow feeling smile . It's hard when family treat you as if you're Captain von Trapp, but you know you're doing your best for your child.

Agree with Kew, some people will choose not to get it. You don't need to justify your parenting to anyone.

bberry Fri 16-Jan-15 16:10:50

Good advice kewcumber... ��

Barbadosgirl Fri 16-Jan-15 19:00:32

I heart Kew!

excitedmtb Fri 16-Jan-15 19:24:57

GirlsWhoWearGlasses that is exactly how I think they see me! Couldn't have put it better.

Kew I see you on these boards and you always talk sense. I think you are probably right here. I have friends and family who get it and yes, I do have some who don't get it but are open about that and respect that we must know what we are doing (although most of the time we feel like we haven't got a clue confused)

I am going to save your post and keep reading every time I start to doubt myself!!

RaisingSteam Sat 17-Jan-15 23:53:12

I agree with Kew. After 9 years (as well! grin) my DP's and IL's are never going to get it with the complications of attachment. They are well intentioned and supportive but we just need to put the boundaries in place ourselves. Or find a simpler way to explain our approach.

DC's recently spent a weekend away at GP's where they were allowed the whole day on DS/tablet, didn't go out at all. "Oh they seemed happy enough". you can imagine the fall out we had. Electronics will be mysteriously forgotten the next trip, which is a desperately needed respite weekend so we don't want to complicate or upset things.

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